QUESTION: Good to have you here with the American Legion. It’s the 100th, I believe, for them. You get asked to speak in a lot of places; you get asked to come to a lot of places. Why the American Legion? What is the speech? What is the conversation you want to have with them?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so I chose this very intentionally. First of all, it’s a chance to be with some amazing patriots, folks who made a decision to serve America, men and women who have honored our country by taking an awful lot of risk and, frankly, who continue to serve in lots of different ways. I’m an American Legion member myself, very proud – Post 4, Wichita, Kansas. I know steak night and beer night there pretty well. (Laughter.) Although it’s been a bit.
But I wanted to talk to them. I want to talk to them about – there’s a lot of noise out there, and I wanted to cut through that by speaking to them candidly about the fact that this a great nation. They should be proud of this. So the idea that they – they embody this. They call it Americanism in their preamble. This Americanism, this idea is central to the success of this nation going forward. And I wanted to share with them how President Trump and our team is working to deliver on their behalf to keep Americans safe, and how America will continue to be a beacon for the entire world, a standard which the world can continue to admire. It’s because of people like them and what we’re trying to do in the Trump administration.
QUESTION: You talk about that – and it’s not that I disagree. There’s an interesting piece of polling out about American culture and values – it was with The Washington Post and some other places – discussing that there are these changes going on, whether it be about the idea of having children, whether it be about the very concepts of the American dream. As you travel – I mean, most of your travel is worldwide travel, but you talk to a lot of people. How would you describe to people in today’s world the value or the importance of that American dream?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Always harken back to the greatness of America being set by our founders. They put together this set of principles for our republic, which we still use today. That’s unique around the world. We still turn back to these founding ideals. And when we deliver our foreign policy, it’s based on these founding principles, the central ideas of freedom.
So you talked about people’s values changing, people speaking differently. This is the greatness of America. We get the opportunity to speak the way we want. And I travel the world, and it’s not true in a whole lot of places. We get to act the way we want. We get to act out our religious faith, or if we have no faith we can do that too here in America. That’s unique. These central understandings of the American experiment, the American founding still are at the base of what makes America so special. It’s why I wanted to be here today with a group of people who I think understand that but sometimes aren’t reminded of it enough.
QUESTION: Let us now go back to just a few days. The G7 summit takes place in France. Media has said that President Trump had a ridiculous time. The stories coming out, people seemed to like him and think that he did pretty well. And one of the things that came out of this was a trade deal with Japan. You were born in California and spent your life in Kansas. I was born in Brooklyn, lived six years in Los Angeles, and now I get to live in America in Indianapolis. It’s great. Oh, you should try it sometime. (Laughter.) So it’s a uniqueness in that experience, having come from these coastal places, and now getting to live where America resides.
But one of the things that gets lost is the farmer here, the people who work the land, the people who are manufacturing here. When we see trade wars, when we see some of these other international conflicts, when we see North Korea in relationship to South Korea and other parts of the country – other parts of the globe, when we see China in this way, it has a real effect on our pocketbook; it has a real effect on the people who live here.
So I want to start with this, what took place in the G7 and this trade deal with Japan. On a national security level, how do you see this benefitting the people right here in Indiana and throughout the Midwest, from Lincoln, Nebraska down to Austin, Texas and up all the way through?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’s a great question. I always go back to where President Trump began. And I knew this, too. I represented south central Kansas; my family have a farm in Winfield, Kansas. We watched for years American farmers, frankly – I ran a small manufacturing company – American manufacturers, too, be denied access to Chinese markets. We couldn’t sell there. They could sell their products here, they could invest here, but we couldn’t do the same. Then President Trump said that’s not right; that’s not fair; we’re going to fix that. No administration – this isn’t political – Republican or Democrat before said, all right, enough is enough. We’re going to get fair, reciprocal trade, not just with China but with European countries too who wouldn’t allow many of our agricultural products, our beef, to be sold into their country. We said that’s wrong. President Trump has systematically gone about trying to open up those markets.
So you see the work that we’re doing in Japan. You see the trade agreement that we hope will be ratified here in the next days by the United States Congress between ourselves and Canada and Mexico. The work that we’re doing to convince China that they do have to open up their markets – these are important undertakings. We’re focused on them, and we will ultimately deliver on behalf of the American people. And I think Kansans get it; I’m sure Indianans do too. They know they’ve been treated unfairly for an awfully long time, and I think they’re pretty proud and happy to have a President who’s defending them and not these folks you talked about on the coasts who had a very different view.
QUESTION: Now I’m going to – I’m only going to tell you that they call themselves Hoosiers here because there’ll be a whole write-up if I don’t correct you about Indianans. The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, with us right now.
The China conversation has people worried. And it’s because it’s finally a real conversation about intellectual property theft, about the trade secret theft. Can you explain how to piece together how a trade deal relates to national security and how you, as Secretary of State, engage with these other nations, like China and others?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So it starts with this fundamental idea. You can’t have a strong military, a strong national security if you don’t have a thriving, growing economy. It’s imperative. And you can look throughout history: when economies shrink, nations shrink in their capability to defend their own people, and President Trump gets that. So our – one of our core pillars is to – we’ve got to make sure America grows; we’ve got to make sure there are American jobs. We’re proud of that. The unemployment rate all across America is pretty darn low. We know there’s a lot more work yet to do.
But one of the things we do is in national security matters, you can’t allow China to continue to take money from the United States. We watch their military build up as well. That is, as they steal our intellectual property, including our intellectual property connected to our things like airplanes and helicopters and telecommunications equipment, and all the things that provide security for people in our country – as we watch them grow their security on our backs, we recognize that’s not sustainable, so we are pushing back.
Now, the most visible is the efforts on trade, but we’re pushing back against them to make sure that there’s not Chinese telecommunications, so that people here in Indiana don’t have their private data stolen by having their information traverse across a Chinese equipment – Chinese network with Chinese equipment. The list is long in places we’re pushing back against them, not for the sake of pushing back, but rather to protect the American people.
QUESTION: Going to stick with the G7, because the story that surprised me was all of a sudden, here comes Iran coming to visit. They’re not a G7 nation. There’s certainly a question about Russia and their possibly coming back, but nobody thinks Iran should be there. The idea whether or not Emmanuel Macron invited him, didn’t invite him. The President said he was fine with him coming, he knew that he was coming, and said that he would be willing to meet with Rouhani, meet with the Iranian leadership. This is something he has said before. The question is how possible is that meeting, and what possibly could be an acceptable compromise result out of that meeting, when you’re dealing with the largest sponsor of state terrorism in the globe?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Tony, you nailed it. So this is the conundrum. President Trump has said, as he says across a broad spectrum of issues, that having conversations creates value. You can understand each other. You know what the positions are more clearly rather than talking through the press or having some intermediary. So the President is very forward-leaning. That’s why he met with Chairman Kim.
With respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, we took over two and a half years ago with them on a pathway to a nuclear weapon. They had this JCPOA, which protected them and gave them that clear pathway. They had money. The previous administration had given them an enormous amount of wealth and allowed them to trade with the world so that they could grow their wealth, which they would use to conduct terror campaigns all around the world. We flipped all of that. We got out of the JCPOA. We’re aiming to find a deal that actually protects the American people from the potentiality of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
And we’ve put economic sanctions in place against the revolutionary regime there, designed to starve their capacity to underwrite Hizballah, which threatens Israel, to underwrite militias in Iraq that threaten Americans around the world, and to take down their machine. It takes wealth. As I talked about before, economies are connected to national security. We’re trying to deny them the wealth and resources so they can foment terror around the world. We’ve been pretty successful. I’m confident we will continue to be, and I hope that there will be an opportunity where we can sit down and get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation.
QUESTION: Can you make that happen with them in charge, the hardliners in charge? The people, the Persians – glorious. But it’s this government. There is a difference, a massive difference. Do you think that this group, the people who brought us Ahmadinejad, the ayatollah, and Rouhani, you think that this can be dealt with?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In the end, the Iranian people will drive the destiny of their nation. And in the end, the Iranian people will demand that their leaders behave in ways that don’t undermine their economy and threaten them from a security perspective, deny them the most basic fundamental rights. We believe deeply in the Iranian people and that their – to your point about their history, it’s a glorious history. These are educated, talented, capable people with long, storied accomplishments. We’re convinced that the Iranian people will ultimately convince their leadership, whoever that may be, that the path that they’re on is not the right one for Iran.
QUESTION: Last question before I let you go, and I appreciate you taking the time. Secretary Mike Pompeo, here in Indianapolis, speaking to the American Legion. We witnessed over the course of the past few weeks Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar not go with a congressional delegation to Israel, but rather take their own trip with a group called Miftah, a group that pushes for the idea of terrorism in Israel. And then when denied access, Congresswoman Tlaib had the opportunity to go visit her grandmother, Israel said yes, and she turned that down, which is what looked like a political stunt to almost every observer.
Did those maneuvers from Congresswoman Tlaib and Congresswoman Omar make our relationship with Israel more problematic? Did it create issues for you and for diplomacy with the United States and Israel or with Israel and other nations that you may possibly deal with?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So Israel gets to make its own sovereign decisions about who it admits and who it gives visas to and who it doesn’t. So I’ll leave that decision to them. But make no mistake about it, we have seen anti-Semitism on the rise here in the United States. We’ve seen anti-Semitic acts come from members of Congress. Those are the kind of things that are not – they’re not right; they’re not appropriate; they’re certainly not in America’s best interest. And we have an obligation to speak out about that when we see it. I mean, President Trump’s been very clear.
I hope that members across a broad political spectrum of Congress – members of Congress, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, will call out those who are acting in ways that are inconsistent with America’s best interests. And America’s best interests almost always mean a successful, thriving Israel. This is the Middle East’s lone democracy. They’re a great security partner for us. It’s an amazing nation with a lot of religious history that’s important to many, many Americans, to include many folks right here in Indiana. This is a friendship, a partnership, a relationship that is of enormous value to the American people, and those who seek to undermine ought to be called out for that.
QUESTION: What question that I didn’t ask that you thought I should ask?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I think you covered it all, Tony.
QUESTION: There’s no way I covered it all.
SECRETARY POMPEO: How about enough? You got enough.
QUESTION: Yeah, I covered enough? That’s a way of saying that we’re done. We’re done, Secretary Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you so much, sir. It’s good to be with you.